Niners live is continuing its series of undrafted underdogs, going deep from an interpersonal level as only we know how. We recently spoke on how RB Matt Breida let the chips fall off his shoulders as they may, now let’s turn our attention to a young gunner at WR who is showing flashes of being special on “Special Teams.”
The road less traveled
After spending four years with the Oregon State Beavers, the 5’8 and 178-pound Bolden looked to prove his worth on the professional level. In his career, Bolden amassed 170 receptions for 1863 yards and seven touchdowns averaging 11.0 yards per catch, to go along with 95 rushes for 727 yards and three touchdowns serving as a dual threat on the field.
Bolden also was a factor in the return game as well his 108 career kick returns accumulated 2,420 yards and three touchdowns at 22.4 yards per return to go along with 19 punt returns for 186 yards and one touchdowns. “I like having the ball in my hands,” Bolden said (via the team’s website). “I think I have great vision. What separates me is my speed. I can separate from guys in the open field. That’s what helps me make the big plays.”
Despite his big play ability and versatility Bolden wasn’t not invited to any of the college All-star games, however he did get an opportunity to strut his stuff at the NFL scouting combine where he ran a 4.54 second 40-yard dash and posted a 117-inch broad jump, which eventually led to a call from the 49ers who brought him in as a undrafted free-agent shortly after the draft.
Taking advantage of opportunities
Since arriving in the Bay area Bolden has been making his presence felt not only in practice but also when given opportunities in live action. Bolden showed potential to be an asset at receiver early on in training camp and OTA’s making several plays in the vertical passing game, however, his most impressive would come as a return man on the special team’s unit.
Bolden really started to assert himself in the second game of the preseason against the Denver Broncos after capping his 36-yard per gain average late in the 4th quarter as he caught a kickoff four yards deep in the end zone, and after making a nifty cutback move as shown in the video, showcased his speed and took it to the house for the 49ers second touchdown of the game.
In the final preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, Bolden was determined to solidify his spot on the final roster and did so by again showcasing his field vision, and speed returning a punt for 92 yards for a touchdown. Bolden finished the preseason with eight total kick returns for 275 yards and 34.4 per return average with six of those returns going for a total of 20 yards or more (nfl.com).
“I try to go out and compete with the best and show what I can do,” Bolden said. “I thank San Francisco for giving me this opportunity.”
Victor Bolden Jr. showing flashes of being Special on “Special Teams”
Bolden surely gave the 49ers something else to think about as they made final cuts to shape the 53-man roster. “Just returning two (kicks for score) isn’t just enough,” Shanahan said. “It’s got to be everything else that you do. I know they were two good plays. But, it has to do with everything else also. How much can he help us out at receiver? Is he the punt returner? Is he the kick returner? What else can he do if he isn’t? And again, what does the 53 look like?” Bolden only managed to catch one pass for nine yards during the preseason, however, proved himself to be valuable enough on special teams to see his name included in the 49ers initial 53- man roster.
“He earned his spot on this roster with his preseason play,” 49ers general John Lynch told reporters Saturday during a teleconference call.
What the 2017 season will bring
With an overhaul of the roster for the 49ers and the new regime it will be even more important that this year’s special team’s unit bring their A game week in and week out. It will especially be vital for players like Bolden and rookie Trent Taylor who has also shown to bring versatility to the table with his special team’s play, to spring the performance of the special teams forward from last year in 2016 where the unit didn’t record a single touchdown on the season. While it might take some time for the offensive and defensive units to come together and be on one accord the team could benefit from big plays and solid execution from the special teams, and hopefully if Bolden can carry over some of the success he has had thus far, we will see some big time plays come game day.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co- Author, Content Creator, Editor Sequoia Sims.